RECORD REVIEWS, JULY-DECEMBER 2021.
THE BOYS. Terminal Love LP (Gutterwall) This is a compilation of rare tracks, alternative mixes and live recordings covering the period from 1978-2015 and, as we have come to expect, it’s a treat to listen to. The Boys wrote and recorded some of the best songs that emerged from the original Punk era, combining insistent melodies and catchy hooks with high-energy and brash attitude. They deserved to be much more successful than they were and their songs should have been all over the airwaves, but the fact that this didn’t happen still remains a mystery. Which makes the release of compilations like this all the more important - giving the fans a chance to investigate all these rare recordings and, at the same time, introducing the band to a new generation of listeners. This isn’t a ‘best of’ collection, but that’s the thing about The Boys … even their less well-known tracks will grab your attention and have you singing along within seconds. That being said, you do still get classics like ‘Brickfield Nights’ (the acoustic version included here is one of the real highlights), ‘TCP’ and ‘Terminal Love’, so there’s plenty to draw you in before you fall in love with all the other tunes. If you’re not already a fan of The Boys, it’s never too late to rectify the situation and this album is as good an introduction as you could hope for!
CHELSEA. Meanwhile Gardens CD (Westworld) I was never a huge fan of Chelsea, but at the same time, they have made some records (’War Across the Nation’, ‘Evacuate’ etc) that are total classics. And the current line-up have also been a pretty solid live band when I’ve seen them in recent years, so I was actually looking forward to hearing this latest album. And I’m happy to say that it’s actually a very enjoyable record. Musically, it’s a pretty upbeat set of songs and while the tempo never gets too fast, the results are full of energy. There’s a pretty anthemic quality to many of the songs, with plenty of singalong choruses and catchy hooks. Nic Austin’s guitar style is instantly recognisable and the rhythm section holds everything down perfectly, while Gene October’s vocals sound stronger than ever. As a treat for long-time fans, and also in recognition of the bands’ 45th anniversary, the album also includes appearances from former members James Stevenson, Martin Stacey and Bob Jesse, but even with those nods towards their past, this is an album that sounds very fresh and vital. This is a record that deserves to be heard by a large audience because it really is a band playing at their best and I think a lot of people will be surprised just how good it is. Go out and give it a listen now!
THE CRAMPS. Let’s Get Fucked Up LP (Mind Control) Double album featuring a full gig recorded in Italy, 1998, capturing the band on tour promoting the excellent ‘Big Beat from Badsville’ album. As such, among older favourites like ‘Garbageman’, ‘Goo Goo Muck’ and ‘Human Fly’ we also get blistering versions of (then) recent songs like ‘Cramp Stomp’, ‘God Monster’ and ‘It thing Hard On’, plus goodies from the previous album (‘Flamejob’) like ‘Mean Machine’ and ‘Naked Girl Falling Down the Stairs’. What it proves beyond any but the most cynical doubters, is that The Cramps were firing on full cylinders right up until the end, and anyone who saw them on their last few tours should confirm this. This set is excellent, full of energy and a suitably-sleazy attitude. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the sound quality. Despite the cover declaring that it was recorded for a TV broadcast, it’s clearly an audience recording and not one of the better ones. As such, this is more for the die-hard fans rather than those wanting a definitive live recording, but once you get past the murky sound, the set is still very enjoyable. Great cover art, as well!
THE CUTTHROAT BROTHERS with MIKE WATT. The King is Dead LP (Hound Gawd!) This is a great mix of different styles. Starting out with dirty Swamp rock (think of Screaming Jay Hawkins backed-up by the original Gun Club) but then add a whole lot of cool twists to the formula, from surf to Blues. Catchy vocal melodies weave their way in and out of the fuzzed-up rhythms, while Mike Watt delivers the dirtiest basslines since his work with The Stooges. Production from the legendary Jack Endino captures everything with clarity but never losing the raw energy of the songs, whilst the final collaborator comes in the person or Raymond Pettibon, who provides the excellent cover art. There really isn’t anything to dislike about this record – do yourself a favour and check it out!
THE DENTS. s/t CD (Rum Bar) Boston-based hi-energy garage punks The Dents were originally together between 2003-2007, releasing one highly-regarded album, ‘Time for Biting’, during that time. Fortunately, for those of us who missed them at the time, the band are now back together and delivering this new, self-titled album. Fronted by Michelle Paulhus and Jennifer D’Angora, the twin-vocals propel the already excellent songs into a whole new orbit. Think of a collision between Suzi Quattro and The Fastbacks, perhaps? Most of the songs are brash and uptempo, though when they do slow things down for the superb, atmospheric ‘Homeless’, the contrast really grabs your attention. This is a truly great album, let’s hope we’ll be hearing even more from this band in the coming years.
DESPERATE JOURNALIST. Maximum Sorrow CD (Fierce Panda) Anyone who named their band after an obscure track performed by The Cure as part of their 1979 Peel Session was bound to intrigue the trainspotter within me. Actually, the name proves to be pretty appropriate as the band are certainly based within the traditions of that same, so-called ‘post-punk’ era. Although it’s just as important to point out that while they take the elements, they also embrace other influences (Glam, Kate Bush, Bjork) to create their own style of dramatic pop. Singer Jo Bevan has often been compared to Siouxsie but I think this is a lazy choice. In truth, Bevans’ vocals are altogether warmer and more emotive, avoiding the melodrama that the ‘gothic’ genre revelled in. Musically, the band may adopt a style of arrangement and production that recalls alternative rock bands from the Eighties, but they do so in such a natural way that it never takes away from the power and purpose of the songs themselves. After all, it’s the actual songwriting that is the bands’ greatest strength. There are plenty of bands who adopt a certain style to hide the fact that their music has no real substance, but that’s not something that can be levelled against Desperate Journalist. Indeed, their songs are catchy and compelling in their own right and the melodies have the kind of insistence that will stick in your memory from the very first listen, sounding better and better on each repeated play. Desperate Journalist may have delved into the musical-past, but they’ve avoided doing so as some sort of nostalgic-trip and, rather, have found a way to take things forward, creating something of their own. In a perfect world, this record would be all over the airwaves. Don’t let the fact that most radio stations are so dull and predictable these days, spoil this for you. Be sure to hear this album and enjoy the ideas, the tunes and the atmosphere!
THE EARLY MORNINGS.Unnecessary creation EP (https://the-early-mornings.bandcamp.com/releases) Forming in Manchester but now based in South London, this is a really intriguing set of songs from this young band, which immediately reminded me of bands like The Nightingales, The Creepers, perhaps even certain elements of Savage Republic. But the further you listen, the more you’ll hear hints of The Raincoats through to more recent bands like The Breeders. It takes me back to listening to the John Peel show on a cheap, trebly transistor radio and that’s not such a bad thing when what they’re doing now has so much character and authenticity of its’ own. Yup, this is a very enjoyable set of songs and I’ll certainly be keen to hear how the band develops from here.
JFK. Nganga CD (Fourth Dimension) Anthony Di Franco has been involved within the more extreme electronic music scene for quite some time, as a member of Ramleh and Skullflower as well as his ongoing solo project JFK. This album originally appeared as a limited-edition vinyl-only release back in 2017, so this CD version will obviously be welcomed by those who missed out first-time around. Although clearly inspired by the harsher sounds of Throbbing Gristle and SPK, as well as the original power-electronics scene, this JFK album takes a different route from its’ origins and adopts a more rhythmic approach, albeit highly disjointed at times. There are certain tracks that could be compared with early Swans material (‘Time is Money’, ‘A Screw’ etc) in the way that the tracks play with the whole format of ‘dance’ music and put it into an entirely different, far more unsettling realm. Other elements emerge as the album continues, with hints of psychedelia and even Space rock taking their place in the arrangements, whilst the more atmospheric moments reflect filmic qualities. This is a powerful album that benefits all the more from having a variety of styles in play, contrasting the material rather than letting it become too repetitive. This edition also includes two bonus tracks (previously only available on a highly-limited 7” single) which will make it even more desirable to the fans. As I said before, this music can be quite unsettling at times, but if you listen with an open mind, it’s also surprisingly enjoyable.
THE MEDIA. Blink of an Eye LP (Detour) Originally together in the late Seventies, The Media were mostly seen as part of the Mod Revival scene but, as with other bands of that era, it probably didn’t do them justice. As has been said before, their sound was too punk for the Mods but also too Mod for the Punks, and they weren’t going to compromise their own style just to please the crowds. Of course, as often happens in such cases, time has served them well and their original singles are now highly collectable, with price-tags to match. Fortunately, their original recordings were gathered together on the ‘Bright New Future’ album in 2019, making them easily-available for the new fans and, hot on the heels of this, the band also reformed. This latest album of entirely new material is the result and it sounds as if they have been away. Big elements of Glam rock (Bowie, TRex, Slade etc) alongside the raw punk of ’77 mixed with the best of the ‘second wave’ (think of the early Good Vibrations releases) and other ‘mod’ bands like The Chords or The Purple Hearts. The vocals, perhaps surprisingly, recall Colin McFaull (Cocksparrer) and there are hints of the Pub Rock scene in their music, as well as Sixties’ influences. There are so many great songs on this record, from the title track through to ‘The Hope’ and the excellent closing track, ‘Bag Lady’. For a band to re-emerge after such a long-break and to do it with so much style is very impressive and I really can’t recommend it enough!
MUDHONEY. Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge – 30th Anniversary Edition LP (Sub Pop) Now, this is the right way to celebrate an anniversary. Alongside the original album, all newly remastered, this package includes a bonus LP of additional material, including seven previously unreleased songs, new cover art, sleeve notes, rare photos and a poster… what fan is going to want to miss this? But, of course, the important thing is the album itself and in case you ever had any doubts, this is one chunk of grunge that still sounds as fresh and vital as it did when we first heard it. Having made their mark with their previous records, this was where Mudhoney started to expand their sound, proving that they were more than one-trick ponies whilst still retaining their bite and urgency. There’s a lot more depth and variety to the music on this album, bringing in hints of bands as diverse as Alice Cooper, Sonic Youth and maybe even the Velvet Underground, while they were also having more fun with the arrangements and production to give the whole album further dimensions. Mudhoney had already established themselves as a formidable live act by this point and their previous records had reflected that status, but this was the record that showed that they were just as capable and creative in the studio. If you haven’t heard this album for a while, this is an ideal time to listen to it again and appreciate how well it’s aged. And with all the bonus goodies, this is a reissue that you can’t afford to miss!
THE RANDELLS. Kicks CD (Monster Zero) A new Swedish band for the Monster Zero label but, as always, the Ramones influence is highly evident on this selection of punky-pop mini-epics. Named after the lead-character from the ‘Rock’n’Roll High School’ movie, you can tell where this band are basing their three-chord tuneage but, thankfully, they don’t just stop there and add their own twists and ideas to the melting pot. Admittedly, songs like ‘I Don’t Wanna Be a Deadbeat’ and ‘Pick Me Up’ don’t stray far from the Da Brudders’ original formula, but tracks like ‘Gum in my Hair’, ‘Elvis in a UFO’ and ‘End of the Summer’ all possess their own character and attitude. If you want to hear an album that’s just a lot of fun, this one is definitely for you!
WASTE. The Lost Tapes – Oudenbosch 1981-83 EP (Subunderground Chaos Archives) Waste were a short-lived Dutch punk band who existed between 1981-83, releasing just one EP (‘History Repeats’) which is now quite a sought-after item. This new EP features previously unreleased recordings from the band that really capture their style and energy. The five tracks were taped in their rehearsal room, so the sound-quality isn’t perfect, but it suits the songs really well. Musically, the band veer between faster Discharge-style songs and more-paced punk rock along the lines of early Anti-Pasti, perhaps. Also, two of the songs feature female vocals which recall Dirt in some ways, which adds further depth to their sound. Overall, these tracks show plenty of ideas and lots of raw power that really propel the songs forward. This EP is limited to only 300 copies, so I suggest you track down a copy now to avoid missing-out!